STUDENTS CAN benefit from an MBA in various ways. According to an exit survey conducted by the School of Business at Hong Kong Baptist University, a large number of its MBA graduates were promoted while taking the course. Nearly 15 per cent of the class of 2002, more than 30 per cent of the class of 2003, and nearly 27 per cent of this year's class have received promotions. Others transferred departments and many changed careers - sometimes for a higher salary. Lieny Hardiman, a strategic planner at Emerson Network Power, a global technology engineering company, is a case in point. She worked for three years before enrolling in the MBA programme at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. With a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales in Australia, she decided to pursue an MBA to hone her business skills while switching her career path from a technical to a more managerial direction. 'The MBA was able to give me a solid foundation in finance, marketing, strategy, accounting and IT, all of which are valuable knowledge to have when exposed to the business world,' Ms Hardiman said. 'The MBA has been a great experience both personally and professionally. 'I was able to meet many new friends from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Professionally, it also opened up new career doors for me.' But the main benefits are often less tangible, and sometimes it takes years before they become apparent. One of the most important is the chance to develop close relationships with people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds. 'Networking is very important in the business world,' said Angela Lau, chairman of the MBA Alumni Association at City University of Hong Kong. 'If you need to know something, you can ask one of your classmates for their opinion if they know something about the field. This can be very helpful.' The benefits continue after graduation. 'You can sometimes hear about jobs from the friends you made in class or at alumni association functions,' Ms Lau said. In addition to learning the latest theories in administration and management, many find that doing an MBA helps develop their soft skills - such as dealing with others, delegating responsibility, and making presentations.